Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Macros, Composites, and Focus Stacking

Photographically speaking, one thing that I decided to try my hand at this winter was a little still life work — macro photography, if you like. No, not necessarily really micro macro but closeup stuff shot on a table top. I have discovered that it will be a learning experience.

My first attempt was to photograph this little set of figurines: for no particular reason — one has to start with something. This is the plain result after a extracting the background, which I needed to do for the next step.

What I had in mind was to place this image into another photo. This was one of my first attempts at making a composite although I have done one or two before.

It's a photo of our Riverside Park in the evening. I placed them close to a spot where had been a bench. Getting the size wasn't difficult, but making it fit the rest of the scene wasn't easy. I seemed to have to make the image darker than I would have liked to make it work in my mind, and I also had to add a shadow. It wasn't a failure exactly, but it wasn't a roaring success either.

Next. I found another photo for the same couple.

I had too much directional light in both photos, and once again, it was difficult to make them fit together. I also had to add some extra shadow to the ground to their left (as we look at it).

I figured that it was best to shoot my macro without a directional light source, and that it would also be better if the light in the background image was also non directional for the most part.

I inserted the snowman into a winter scene, and I rather like the result. So I am 1 for 3 so far. I also photoshopped some falling snow.

Next came another failure. When I say failure in the context of this post, I don't mean an abject failure but, rather, a result that I don't call a success.

I took the teapot and chocolates photo in a different spot — near a window — as a straight photo and not a composite. The light was diffused that day, so I thought that I might get away from reflective highlights, but as you can see, I didn't. I also was careless in leaving a bump in the tablecloth. I don't like the result.

I did have more success with this Valentine candy dish, however. I focus stacked 6 photos to make this one, and I like it on the dark background.

I had never tried focus stacking before these experiments although I did use it on some of the earlier photos in this post. I will attempt to explain focus stacking for those who aren't in the know.

For macro shots, it is difficult to get the whole object in really clear focus. In this case, I took 6 different shots, moving my critical focal point from front to back in increments. I had the camera in completely manual mode and used the liveview on the back of the camera to nail the focus as best I could by zooming in as much as possible. I even put my glasses on to be as accurate as possible. Finally, I used Photoshop to automatically blend the 6 photos together. The program chose the sharpest parts of each photo.

I was going to save the photo for Valentine's Day, but it fit so well with this post that I chose to trot it out now.

I'm sure I will try more macro shots, whether as straight shots of composites. It is not my favourite form of photography, but it does keep me warmer in winter than working outside. It is also a learning experience. Good for the brain, right?


EG CameraGirl said...

This looks extremely interesting to me as I want to try my hand at some still life photography this winter too. So I can light and wrinkles are going to be challenges. Hm.

Tabor said...

Still life in the winter...have done some of that. But not the removing background or focus stacking which is new to me. I like these ideas and I think you are a bit too critical as these did work out pretty well. Light angles I completely understand and that is why my composites usually fail.

Marie Smith said...

These photos look wonderful to these untrained eyes. Great way to pass the long, cold winter too.

Country Gal said...

Well done ! It is amazing what one can do with photography and Photoshop isn't it ? So much to learn . Makes for great indoor fun when the weather out side is nasty and cold ! Thanks for sharing , have a good day !

Linda Kay said...

I think you should repost the valentine candies on Valentines day, for sure. What a fun project.

ADRIAN said...

I would go for directional light, copy the superimposed image convert to monotone and use it as the shadow by free transforming it and adjusting opacity.
The focus stacking is impressive for Photoshop. I use Zerene which is excellent.

Vicki Lane said...

I like what you're doing. Is it Photoshop you're using?

Lorna said...

You never fail to impress me. Even the picture of Valentinish canddy appealed to me.

Jackie said...

And I say, "Wow!!" to these amazing photos.
I'm so impressed....and I can't wait to see more of your macros.

Shammickite said...

Anything to keep the brain working is good! I like all these pictures. I'm sure the little girl and boy enjoyed their outing to the park!!!

Pearl said...

neat. never heard of focus stacking.

Donna said...

Love Macro...You've got some great shots here Ac!

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Now you are showing us some techniques to consider on a future wintry day. However, as I no longer own a copy of Photoshop these may be ones I will have to admire through your work, John.

Jim Flack said...

I love looking at your photos as I have said before. I am a "point a d shoot" type of guy, even though I have a really good camera. Maybe it's a patience thing with me. But, I digress, you have such a keen eye and knowledge of what you are doing and what you want to accomplish. Very fascinating to an novice camera bug like me. Keep sharing! And thank you!!